Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Voters May Get Last Word on Allentown's H2O Privatization
Environmentalists have concerns. Will water quality suffer? One of the bidders has purchased water elsewhere to supply to frackers. Will rates skyrocket? In power points and video, Pawlowski insists that won't happen, but many of his usual supporters are skeptical.
One of these supporters is "Camera Dan," or Dan Poresky. He, Glenn L. Hunsicker, Glenn S. Hunsicker, former Controller William Hoffman, and former Council member Michael Donovan have formed a petition committee to give the voters a direct say in this question.
As a rule, I tend to oppose direct democracy, sometimes called initiative and referendum, especially on complicated matters like this. People let their emotions, and not the facts, dictate their votes.
But this is Allentown, where democracy is dead. Three of its seven Council members have not even been elected. Of its 63,806 registered voters, it took just 7,908 of them - a scant 12.4% - to elect Edwin Pawlowski to his second term as Mayor.
Instead of a democracy, Allentown is an urban growth regime in which politicians and select members of the business world co-opt each other, not for the benefit of the community, but to advance their own business interests.
So in this instance, I'd support giving the voters a direct say in the privatization of its water supply.
Poresky and friends have already announced they have enough signatures, but that means nothing unless the City Council Clerk agrees. Last night, I was surpprsed to learn that he does.
Poresky's announcement follows:
The Petitioners Committee that was formed October 12, in response to Mayor Pawlowski’s attempt to privatize Allentown’s water and sewer system, received notification December 4, from City Clerk, Michael Hanlon, declaring that petitions submitted to him on November 28, by the committee, have been declared sufficient. Sufficient is a term used in the city charter meaning that the petitions have met all legal requirements.
One hundred-one petitions containing over four thousand signatures were submitted to the city clerk on November 1. The petition asks that City Council establish an ordinance that requires the city to go to the voters for authority to sell or lease any city property or asset valued at $10 million or more.
According to Mr. Hanlon, the initiative will be introduced at the City Council meeting December 21. Council then has 60 days during which it can act. According to Section 1007 of the Home Rule Charter, Council has three options. It can pass an ordinance consistent with the intent of the initiative. Council can also choose to decline to create an ordinance or do nothing. In either of those two instances the initiative goes to the voters as a ballot question in the May election.
Dan Poresky, a member of the petitioners’ committee stated, “We encourage council to adopt the initiative as an ordinance without delay. Doing so would require any proposed water/sewer lease agreement to go to the voters as early as May 2013."
Poresky says, “The petitioners' committee is preparing action to prevent the city from finalizing a lease agreement until their initiative becomes an ordinance. The ordinance could be created either by Council’s action in the next couple of months or, should they not do so, then by a successful ballot question in the May 2013 primary election.”